US violating Basel plastic waste export rules, according to BAN

US waste export destinations

Data obtained by the Basel Action Network (BAN) has shown that US recycling exporters are violating the Basel Convention rules on plastic exports.

Under the new Basel Convention rules that began on 1 January, mixed and contaminated plastic wastes must not be exported to non-OECD countries – typically developing countries.


But according to US Customs data investigated by BAN, exports in January 2021 did not diminish, but actually increased to Malaysia.

BAN executive director Jim Puckett said: “Despite new global trade rules coming into force this year, our city, county, state and federal governments appear to be still happily shunting their plastic wastes to horrific operations in developing countries, despite this trade now being illegal.

“Clearly, the Biden Administration has to step up at once and put the brakes on this form of environmental injustice.”

While the US is not a signatory of the Basel Convention, members are not allowed to import controlled materials from the US unless it joins.

In January 2021, exports of plastics to non-OECD were 25,700 tonnes almost unchanged from January 2020’s 25,200 tonnes.

Exports to Malaysia actually increased to 9,800 tonnes in January 2021 from 8,600 tonnes the same month the year before.

Jim Puckett added: “We have found evidence already in the customs data of specific illegal shipments, and it’s highly likely, that once the shipments are inspected, a majority of it will be found to be illegal.

“Further, we have also found evidence that the shipping companies we have called upon to cease plastic waste exportation to developing countries continue to aid and abet this criminal trafficking in waste.”

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